DUNEDIN, Fla. -- In Russell Martin's second full season in the big leagues, 2008 with the Dodgers, he played in 155 games and was behind the plate in a remarkable 149 of them. "It used to be an ego thing, that I wanted to play every day," the Blue Jays
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- In Russell Martin's second full season in the big leagues, 2008 with the Dodgers, he played in 155 games and was behind the plate in a remarkable 149 of them. "It used to be an ego thing, that I wanted to play every day," the Blue Jays catcher said before Tuesday's workout.
Now that he's 34, Martin still wants to play every day. He just realizes that it's not always the best idea for him or the team.
"I pride myself in taking care of my body," he said. "I think you realize that you do perform better when you get a little bit of rest as you get a little older. It's not necessarily like I need to play less. It's just I play better if I play less."
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Even with that, Martin remains a workhorse. Last season, Yadier Molina of the Cardinals caught 146 games, and no one else was close. But Martin, with 127 games, was right there in the next group with J.T. Realmuto of the Marlins (129), Salvador Perez of the Royals and Wilson Ramos of the Nationals (128).
And that's where the under-the-radar signing of veteran backup catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia comes in. It gives manager John Gibbons the option to rest Martin a little more often, and to be more confident he'll actually get to relax when he's not in the starting lineup.
"Salty's got some pop in that bat," Gibbons said. "Where that helps is that you can go late in the game, and you don't have to worry about pinch-hitting. That will help, because there were many times in the past couple years where Russ would have his day off and the next thing you know, he's in the game in the sixth inning. That almost defeats the whole purpose of it, really."
Said Martin: "Part of taking care of myself means getting adequate rest to be able to perform at the top of my game. That kind of goes hand-in-hand.
"So when you can get a break with a guy who has experience, who cares about his pitchers, it alleviates my stress level of not being in the lineup. Knowing that I can have somebody that I can rely on. That allows me to have a nice day and maybe get benefits from that day without worrying too much about stuff."
Martin knows that when he hit 18 home runs for the Yankees in 2011, eight of them came after a day off or a game he didn't play in.
"When I saw that I was like, 'Man, why do I keep [complaining] when they give me a day off? You're playing better. They're trying to help you out,'" Martin said with a laugh. "People like to see you play every day. ... But people like to see you play good. So make sure you play good, right?"
Paul Hagen is a national columnist for MLB.com.